Let’s face it. Wine can be intimidating, and wine drinkers have often been portrayed as pretentious, spouting off fanciful flavor descriptions that seem to bear little resemblance to the fermented grapes in their glass.
The portrayal of wine is changing, however, due to a new generation of enthusiastic wine drinkers: millenials. In terms of generations, only baby boomers drink more wine. And as millenials get more involved in the buying and making of wine, they are especially ready to try brands with playful irreverence, plain-spoken descriptions and, of course, a great taste.
Take Rebel Coast Winery, launched two years ago by brothers who brag on their website that their first batches of wine were blended in trashcans and under bridges.
One of those brothers, Chip Forsythe, says the brand appeals to millennials because Rebel Coast’s authenticity shines through. “We’re not faking anything, just grabbing a camera and computer to document what we do on a daily basis,” he says. “When it comes to wine, Millennials want something that is not intimidating to pronounce, fun to say and, most of all, memorable.
“Most wineries have been around since the ’60s and have a bottle of wine and marketing approach that reflects that,” Forsythe continues. “It’s not that we are revolutionary; it’s that this market has been so ripe for disruption that it makes us look like visionaries.”
Another brand that appeals to the younger set, TXT Cellars, adopted the language of texting, marketing wines like OMG!!! chardonnay and WTF!!! pinot noir. With screw caps instead of corks and matter-of-fact labeling, the brand aims to cut out confusion for everyday consumers. “We developed it with an idea of bringing texting, something that almost everyone could relate to, with unpretentious, easy-to-drink wine,” says Mark Tucker, director of marketing at Vision, Wine & Spirits, which represents the TXT brand.
Marketing to millennials brings expanded apparel opportunities as well. Though traditional embellishment methods like screen printing and embroidery are still favored, many wineries are opting for trendier, retail-inspired designs, says Eddie Brascia, co-owner of Sonoma Design, Apparel and Promotions (asi/329869). Located in the heart of wine country, Sonoma Design has a lot of experience helping wineries promote their brands.
For the most part, the wineries won’t alter their logos for apparel, but the trend is to place the logos in interesting spots, rather than the standard left chest, he says. Designs will go on sleeves, or yokes, the bottom hems or wrap around the shirt. Or, for example, Sonoma Design will add a vine that curls through the logo and up around a shirt’s V-neck. “Something to make it look a little different,” Brascia says.
Rebel Coast has had a lot of luck selling its branded T-shirt with what it calls its “Bear Scare” graphic: a menacing bear behind the silhouette of a wine bottle. “We can’t make enough,” Forsythe says. “No joke, we literally have people stealing our shirts at every event we do.” He estimates that the winery has ordered several thousand shirts in the last six months from Los Angeles-based decorator The Social Life. The winery only has about 20 shirts remaining from that order, according to Forsythe.
The wine market, as a whole, is on an upswing, and designing apparel for wineries can be a lucrative endeavor, Brascia says. “There are lots of wineries popping up,” he says. Now that’s something you can raise a glass to.